Executive Times






2008 Book Reviews


The Gathering by Anne Enright




(Highly Recommended)




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Sure and why wouldn’t a death bring up all kinds of issues in a large Irish family? Anne Enright’s fine new novel, The Gathering, presents a narrator, Veronica Hegarty, a middle child of a family of nine, who goes to London to bring home to Ireland the body of her older brother, Liam, who has died tragically.  Through this narration, Enright gets to explore family, life, death, sorrow, memory, and special Irish treats: drink and England. Along the way, readers enjoy fine writing, as in this excerpt, from the beginning of Chapter 3, pp. 13-14:


The seeds of my brother's death were sown many years ago. The person who planted them is long dead — at least that's what I think. So if I want to tell Liam's story, then I have to start long before he was born. And, in fact, this is the tale that I would love to write: history is such a romantic place, with its jarveys and urchins and side-buttoned boots. If it would just stay still, I think, and settle down. If it would just stop sliding around in my head.

All right.

Lambert Nugent first saw my grandmother Ada Merriman in a hotel foyer in 1925.  This is the moment I choose. It was seven o'clock in the evening. She was nineteen, he was twenty-three.

She walked into the foyer and did not look about her and sat in an oval-backed chair near the door. Lamb Nugent watched her through a rush of arrivals and instructions as she removed her left-hand glove and then picked off the right. She pulled a little bracelet out from under her sleeve, and the hand that held the gloves settled in her lap.

She was beautiful, of course.

It is hard to say what Lamb Nugent looked like, at twenty-three. He has been in the grave so long, it is hard to think of him innocent or sweating, when all of that is gone to dust.

What did she see in him?

He must be reassembled; click clack; his muscles hooked to bone and wrapped with fat, the whole skinned over and dressed in a suit of navy or brown — something about the cut of the lapels, maybe, that is a little too sharp, and the smell on his hands would be already a little finer than carbolic. He had it down, even then, the dour narcissism of the ordinary man, and all his acts of self-love were both subtle and exact. He did not preen. Lamb Nugent watched. Or he did not watch so much as let it enter into him — the world, in all its nuance of who owed what to whom.

Which is what he saw, presumably, when my grand­mother walked in through the door. His baby eyes. His two black pupils, into which the double image of Ada Merriman walked, and sat. She was wearing blue, or so I imagine it. Her blue self settled in the grey folds of his brain, and it stayed there for the rest of his life.

It was five past seven. The talk in the foyer was of rain, and what to do with the jarvey and whether refreshments would be required; after which the knot of arrivals was pulled in a string through the front lounge door, and the two servants were left behind to wait; she in her neat chair, he with his elbow on the high reception desk, like a man standing at a bar.

In which position, they stayed for three and a half hours. They belonged to the lower orders. Waiting was not a problem, for them.


The image I kept getting through The Gathering was one of falling. In some families, that’s the normal state of affairs. Read and enjoy.


Steve Hopkins, April 21, 2008



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The recommendation rating for this book appeared

 in the May 2008 issue of Executive Times


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